While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6-7)
When you’re in the market for a place to call home, life can be unsettling. Recently we learned that our landlord will be selling our rental home. Obviously, this unexpected news has created some unwanted anxiety. As my family and I get ready to celebrate our first Christmas in our new community of Henderson, we can’t help but wonder what side of town we’ll be living in next year. And as we pull out the Christmas decorations we moved from Ohio, we question how much we even want to unpack if it only means packing everything up again for another move in a matter of weeks or months. As much as our housing situation has given me concern, it has also compelled me to imagine myself as one of the players on the streets of Bethlehem on the night the Savior was born.
Like Joseph and Mary, all of us want to know that we have a place to go to at night: a place of safety, protection, shelter, belonging and love. Perhaps that is why I was struck with embarrassment as I studied a contemporary portrayal of Joseph and Mary by comic artist, Everett Patterson. On a rainy night, José is using a payphone outside a convenience store in Bethlehem as a tired Maria dressed in typical teenage gear (jeans and a “Nazareth High School” sweatshirt) sits impatiently on a broken, 25-cent, mechanical pony. And in the background, one can read the marquis from nearby Dave’s City Motel: “Free HBO – New Man_ger.” Given that I’m not drawn to comic art, I quickly dismissed the work. But then, I found myself being undeniably pulled back to this stunning portrayal of Mary and Joseph’s rejection in Bethlehem. As I looked into the weary faces of José and Maria, my mind was overwhelmed with questions: “Would I have been any different?” “Would I have even stopped to help a teenage girl and her frightened fiancé?” “Would I have made room in my house?”
At Christmas, it’s so easy for all of us to get wrapped up in sentimentality as we tell the story of Jesus’ birth. We want to whitewash the manger scene. We imagine a serene Mary, holding her child, with no trace of the labor of childbirth. And who of us doesn’t like to think about the beauty and wonder of a newborn child as his mother glances into his face for the very first time? But this child’s birth means absolutely nothing if we don’t think about the whole of his life.
This year as I prepare for Christmas in the middle of our uncertainties, I keep thinking about an unusual Christmas ornament I was once given. The gift was a four-inch nail attached to a red ribbon meant to hang on our Christmas tree. Of all the ornaments I could put on my tree, it is always the one I least like to put up. But it is the one that tells me why we celebrate this child’s birth. God sent his Son into our world to do what no other child could do. Jesus came into our world to save us from our sins and to offer us the gift of a new home, an eternal home.
Yes, I’m praying that God will help my family solve our housing dilemma this year. But I have an even greater prayer. I pray that the message of Christ’s birth would inspire millions to open the door of their hearts to the One who came into this world as the Babe of Bethlehem.
God is ready to take up residence in our lives. And still I wonder...
Would I have made room?
Would you have made room?
Will we make room in our lives this Christmas season?
© Adrian N. Doll, Green Valley Presbyterian Church, 2017
Illustration of "José y Maria" used by permission by the artist, Everrett Patterson.
Please visit http://www.everettpatterson.com for more information.